I am a longterm intern at an adult education school where I assist people with polishing up their résumés and sprucing up their cover letters to help them get their foot in the door of potential employers. How can I best use my time to encourage, inform, and motivate students who are searching for a job, while at the same time making use of any available downtime to prepare myself for a possible job interview, so I can move on?

Organization, careful planning, and consistent focus are the keys to any successful job search—not only for your students, but for yourself. With your students, your first step should be to encourage them to think of their job search as a job in itself. The same goes for your own search.

Before you start, stake out all the tasks you’ll need to do:

  • Writing a résumé
  • Identifying and researching prospective employers
  • Preparing questions and answers for your interviews
  • Making sure you have the right interview clothes
  • Keeping an appointment calendar
  • Having the materials on hand to print out résumés, cover letters, and write thank-you notes

While your students can (and should) do all this in your school’s facilities, your own job search needs to be conducted on your own time, outside the office. Ask prospective employers to call you at home or on your cell phone and leave a message if necessary. If you want to return a message during work, wait until your lunch or coffee break, then step outside to make the call.

This article originally appeared on January 15, 2006, in Peter Post’s “Etiquette at Work” column in the Boston Globe.